Toilet Training by grassrootsgroundswell

What do I need to know about toilet training my toddler?

You need to know how to prepare for toilet learning ;what the signs of readiness are; and you need to know how to actually do it – and, of course patience while your child learns this new skill!

As you know, every single child is different, and each child learns in their own time.


If you and your partner are comfortable, let the child see you using the toilet.

Teach them the steps, by description… Eg pull pants down, wipe, flush , wash hands etc – using appropriate language for your child.

Start talking about: ‘When you are a big boy/girl, you’ll wear big boy/ girls pants like… (someone they like) and use the toilet.

Buy a potty and place it next to the toilet if possible. Tell them this is what you use to start. Let them get comfortable with sitting on it, fully clothed. Let them take it to the lounge room, bedroom, if they like – you want them to be ‘happy’ with it.

Buy some big boy/ girl undies. Get them to help you put them in the drawer ready for when they need them.

Teach them the words for the body parts and functions. Think carefully about the words you choose. It is recommended by  sexual health personnel and also child protection people, that children learn the correct terminology.

Have some story books about toilet learning as part of your library.

Be ready yourself. When the child is ready, they can learn fairly quickly, but they need your support and patience during the learning.

Signs of Readiness:

The sphincter is a muscle which ‘holds’ our urine and faeces ‘in’. It develops in children at around 2  1/2yrs. Prior to this, when a child’s bladder is full, it just empties, as there is no muscle to hold it in. It is only when the sphincter is working that we can help children to successfully learn how to use the toilet.

There are three stages prior to being ready to learn.

  • The child wees with no awareness eg babies;
  • The child momentarily stops play whilst they are weeing ie they can ‘feel’ it, and know that something is happening. The may also say: “Me do wees”; and
  • The child knows they ‘need’ to go.

It is only when they are at stage 3 that toilet learning can be successful.

When children are ready you will notice that they will also be able to follow simple  instructions, and remain focussed for a while.

How to:

When you see the readiness signs, pick a week where you don’t have many activities planned – so that you are mostly at home, making it easier for the child to be successful.

Make a bit of a fuss and say: I think you are big enough to start using the toilet now shall we try? – or words to that effect.

You will know that if the child has had something to drink, that they will need to go soon. So a while after a drink ask –  eg: shall we go and see if you have any wees now?

When an accident occurs, no big fuss, no punishment or harsh talk. Let them know it’s an accident, and we’ll try to get to the toilet next time. Get the child to ‘help’ in the clean up process – of themselves, the floor, putting new pants on etc – this is really important, because they are learning cause and effect – not as punishment, but as logical consequence. Hand washing at the end!

Do not limit drinks – a child need practise at feeling what a full bladder is like, to learn when s/he needs to get to the toilet quickly.

And finally… and this is my belief…. I’m not a fan of ‘pull-up’ type of pants. My reason is that you’ve just taught a child not to wet their pants/ undies, yet the message with pull-ups is that it’s okay to do it here. Also when their undies are wet, they can clearly feel it and are uncomfortable and  so there’s a direct understanding.

When children are ready they learn quickly. If they aren’t ready it will be a long process. Leave it another month and try again.

Happy toilet learning!

Image by grassrootsgroundswell via Flickr

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